“Wars and rumors of wars.”– These words are a painful reality for many. Most of us not in hostile areas are so inundated with the devastation of war and terrorism on television that, after a while, we want to push it away, hoping that it will disappear. Unfortunately, it is our daily dose of reality, and it does not look like it is going to end. Because we care about people, we feel the pain of injured humanity as though we were experiencing it ourselves.
Those intensely involved in support and ministry to the persecuted church are not immune to the emotional pain of seeing human suffering. Christian workers around the world are eyewitnesses to social upheaval and often the tragic aftermath. Sometimes they suffer because of being targeted by radical forces, like churches in Pakistan, Nigeria, and Egypt. Life and work must go on, often persistently working in the middle of or around the devastation. They keep going on in spite of the threat to personal safety.
At a soccer match in Manila, I talked to a proud parent of one of the soccer players. As a missionary in Vietnam, he raised most of his family while the war was going on. He said that he knew how to avoid trouble and managed to stay in Vietnam almost to the end of the conflict. He and his family not only survived but flourished in the middle of this deadly arena. Instead of lamenting about their difficulties and wishing they could find relief from the possibility of pain and death, they found ways of continuing in ministry
Guns and bombs do not tell the whole story.
Without detracting from the difficulties and concrete realities of armed conflicts, there is the need to remind ourselves of a deeper and, in many ways, more significant struggle. This struggle is against the very powers that incite hostilities. Conflict and wars, we are told in the Book of James, come from within the hearts of people. It is ultimately a spiritual problem.
This makes it even more deadly. It is not just our bodies that are placed in the line of fire; it is our souls as well. Our struggle against elusive and unseen powers is serious, painful, and sometimes deadly. There are casualties, and eternal destinies are at stake.
Christians should not be confused about how to engage these forces in spiritual combat. Confronting evil through prayer is the primary method used by God’s people through the ages. Confrontational prayer stems from the refusal to be hindered, overcome or defeated by our spiritual adversaries. Sincere, earnest, persistent prayer beats back deadly evil.
David Wells, in an article “Prayer: Rebelling against Status Quo” (Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader. Pasadena, California: William Carey Library, 1982, 124) writes that we should not accept the world in its present form. Our refusal to accept the condition of the world as “normal” should lead us to fight with spiritual weapons (125). Wesley L. Duewel, in his very powerful book, Touch the World through Prayer, encourages us to develop a determined spirit in facing spiritual conflict. We are not to be defensive but we should attack evil through prayer until it is defeated or at least flees from our presence (Wesley L. Duewel, Touch the World Through Prayer. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986, 209, 176).
Perhaps it is time to seriously consider our role in the unseen but real war of the spirit.